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Europe’s Digital Travel Pass Officially Launches

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A passenger at the Zagreb Airport in Croatia gets the QR code on his EU Digital COVID Certificate scanned.

Photo by Denis Lovrovic/European Commission

A passenger at the Zagreb Airport in Croatia gets the QR code on his EU Digital COVID Certificate scanned.

The digital health certificate meant to help facilitate travel is now up and running across the EU.

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Back in March, the European Commission proposed that member nations issue digital health certificates to EU residents who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, tested negative for the virus, or have recovered from it, which would allow them to travel freely across the 27-nation bloc.

On June 1, the EU Digital COVID Certificate, as it’s called, went live when seven European countries connected to the platform: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Poland. But as of July 1, the technology has launched across the EU and is now being recognized by all member states, which are making it available to citizens and residents.

“With this, everyone in Europe should be able to travel safely and freely this summer,” said EU Commission spokesman Christian Wigand. And in a bloc of 450 million citizens, he said that “more than 200 million certificates have [already] been generated.”

A regularly updated list of the countries that are issuing the certificates as well as additional information about how the certificates work are available on the EU Digital COVID Certificate website.

“EU citizens are looking forward to traveling again, and they want to do so safely. Having an EU certificate is a crucial step on the way,” stated Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety. 

How does the EU Digital COVID Certificate work?

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The EU Digital COVID Certificate is free and accessible to all—it is available both in a digital and paper format, offering a secure and verified QR code to those who can provide proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative COVID-19 test result.

The European Union is using a cloud-based system established by tech providers T-Systems and SAP and hosted at the European Commission’s data center in Luxembourg. It allows those on the platform to verify the digital information contained in the certificates’ QR codes while protecting personal data. The QR codes and the information they contain will be accessible through apps established by each individual country.

Can Americans get an EU Digital Travel Certificate?

While the digital health certificates will facilitate travel within Europe, there has been very little information provided on how and whether they would facilitate travel from outside of Europe, or travel between European countries by noncitizens and nonresidents, as they are designed to work in countries that are tapped into the same network, which right now is just countries in Europe.

The establishment of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, essentially a vaccine or health passport, stands in stark contrast to the approach in the United States, where the Biden administration has acknowledged that there’s mounting demand for some form of secure documentation that allows citizens to provide proof of their vaccination status—but it has also said the federal government won’t be the one to provide it.

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With no government-issued digital health passports stateside, vaccinated U.S. citizens have just their paper CDC-issued vaccination certificate to offer as proof of vaccination as well as a patchwork of digital COVID passports that have been developed by the private sector. These include the IBM Digital Health Pass, the CommonPass, Clear, and the International Air Transport Association’s IATA Travel Pass, among others. But none of these are being widely used yet.

This story was originally published on June 1, 2021, and has been updated to include current information. Associated Press contributed reporting.

>> Next: Europe Finally Lifts U.S. Travel Ban—458 Days Later

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